Commerce Secretary Appoints Comcast VP to Advisory Board to Protect Free & Open Internet
I got whiplash this afternoon doing a double-take on the improbable announcement that Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has seen fit to appoint David Cohen, senior vice president and chief lobbyist at Comcast, to the first-ever Digital Economy Board of Advisors, which counts among its goals protecting a free and open Internet. He will be joined by AT&T’s chief lobbyist, the omnipresent Mr. James Cicconi.
Neither has much patience for Net Neutrality. Cicconi and Cohen have both lobbied Congress and regulators to keep Comcast and AT&T free from regulation and oversight, even as Comcast imposes usage-billing and data caps on a growing number of its customers, while exempting its own streaming video content from those caps. For its part, AT&T is exploring “zero rating” preferred content partners to escape the wrath of its own wireless data limits and advocates against community broadband competition.
The board will be co-chaired by Markle Foundation president Zoe Baird and Mitchell Baker, executive chairwoman of Mozilla.
“As we develop an agenda to help the digital economy grow and thrive, it is critical that we engage with those on the front lines of the digital revolution,” said Pritzker.
It apparently doesn’t matter that the front lines being explored are those of the allies and enemies of Net Neutrality. Putting David Cohen on the case to protect a free and open Internet is like appointing Bernie Madoff to head the Securities & Exchange Commission.
Consumers are, as usual, woefully under-represented on the panel. Only Marta Tellado, president and CEO of Consumer Reports, is likely to solely advocate for ordinary Internet users. The rest of the panel is made up of bankers, businesspeople (including the CEO of a home shopping channel), academia, think tanks and dot.com interests:
- Karen Bartleson, president-elect of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
- Greg Becker, president and CEO of Silicon Valley Bank and SVB Financial Group
- Austan Goolsbee, Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business
- Mindy Grossman, CEO and director of HSN
- Oisin Hanrahan, co-founder and CEO of Handy
- Sonia Katyal, Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law
- James Manyika, director of the McKinsey Global Institute
- William Ruh, CEO of GE Digital and Chief Digital Officer for GE
- Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft
- Corey Thomas, president and CEO of Rapid7
- Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
- John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft